Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

Visionary Wagner - The Flying Dutchman, Finnish National Opera

An exceptional Wagner Der fliegende Holländer, so challenging that, at first, it seems shocking. But Kasper Holten's new production, currently at the Finnish National Opera, is also exceptionally intelligent. Holten connects Der fliegende Holländer to Der Meistersinger von Nürnberg and even to Parsifal by bringing out sub-texts on artistic creativity and metaphysics. And what amazing theatre this is, too, and very sensitive to the abstract cues in the music. . ,

Don Quichotte at Chicago Lyric

A welcome addition to Lyric Opera of Chicago’s roster was its recent production of Jules Massenet’s Don Quichotte.

Written on Skin: Royal Opera House

800 years ago, every book was a precious treasure - ‘written on skin’. In George Benjamin’s and Martin Crimp’s 2012 opera, Written on Skin, modern-day archivists search for one such artefact: a legendary 12th-century illustrated vanity project, commissioned by an unnamed Protector to record and celebrate his power.

Madama Butterfly at Staatsoper im Schiller Theater

It was like a “Date Night” at Staatsoper unter den Linden with its return of Eike Gramss’ 2012 production of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. While I entered the Schiller Theater, the many young couples venturing to the opera together, and emerging afterwards all lovey-dovey and moved by Puccini’s melodramatic romance, encouraged me to think more positively about the future of opera.

It’s the end of the world as we know it: Hannigan & Rattle sing of Death

For the Late Night concert after the Saturday series, fifteen Berliners backed up Barbara Hannigan in yet another adventurous collaboration on a modern rarity with Simon Rattle. I was completely unfamiliar with the French composer, but the performance tonight made me fall in love with Gérard Grisey’s sensually disintegrating soundscape Quatre chants pour franchir le seuil, or “Fours Songs to cross the Threshold”.

A Vocally Extravagant Saturday Night with Berliner Philharmoniker

One of the things I love about the Philharmonie in Berlin, is the normalcy of musical excellence week after week. Very few venues can pull off with such illuminating star wattage. Michael Schade, Anne Schwanewilms, and Barbara Hannigan performed in two concerts with two larger-than-life conductors Thielemann and Rattle. We were taken on three thrilling adventures.

Les Troyens at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago’s original and superbly cast production of Hector Berlioz’s Les Troyens has provided the musical public with a treasured opportunity to appreciate one of the great operatic achievements of the nineteenth century.

Merry Christmas, Stephen Leacock

The Little Opera Company opened its 21st season by championing its own, as it presented the world premiere of Winnipeg composer Neil Weisensel’s Merry Christmas, Stephen Leacock.

Bampton Classical Opera 2017

In 2015, Bampton Classical Opera’s production of Salieri’s La grotta di Trofonio - a UK premiere - received well-deserved accolades: ‘a revelation ... the music is magnificent’ (Seen and Heard International), ‘giddily exciting, propelled by wit, charm and bags of joy’ (The Spectator), ‘lively, inventive ... a joy from start to finish’ (The Oxford Times), ‘They have done Salieri proud’ (The Arts Desk) and ‘an enthusiastic performance of riotously spirited music’ (Opera Britannia) were just some of the superlative compliments festooned by the critical press.

The nature of narropera?

How many singers does it take to make an opera? There are single-role operas - Schönberg’s Erwartung (1924) and Eight Songs for a Mad King by Peter Maxwell Davies (1969) spring immediately to mind - and there are operas that just require a pair of performers, such as Rimsky-Korsakov’s Mozart i Salieri (1897) or The Telephone by Menotti (1947).

A Christmas Festival: La Nuova Musica at St John's Smith Square

Now in its 31st year, the 2016 Christmas Festival at St John’s Smith Square has offered sixteen concerts performed by diverse ensembles, among them: the choirs of King’s College, London and Merton College, Oxford; Christchurch Cathedral Choir, Oxford; The Gesualdo Six; The Cardinall’s Musick; The Tallis Scholars; the choirs of Trinity College and Clare College, Cambridge; Tenebrae; Polyphony and the Orchestra of the Age of the Enlightment.

Fleming's Farewell to London: Der Rosenkavalier at the ROH

As 2016 draws to a close, we stand on the cusp of a post-Europe, pre-Trump world. Perhaps we will look back on current times with the nostalgic romanticism of Richard Strauss’s 1911 paean to past glories, comforts and certainties: Der Rosenkavalier.

Loft Opera’s Macbeth: Go for the Singing, Not the Experience

Ah, Loft Opera. It’s part of the experience to wander down many dark streets, confused and lost, in a part of Brooklyn you’ve never been. It is that exclusive—you can’t even find the performance!

A clipped Walküre in Amsterdam

Let’s start by getting a couple of gripes out of the way. First, the final act of Die Walküre does not constitute a full-length concert, even with a distinguished cast and orchestra, and with animated drawings fluttering on a giant screen.

A Leonard Bernstein Delight

When you combine two charismatic New York stage divas with the artistry of Los Angeles Opera, you have a mix that explodes into singing, dancing and an evening of superb entertainment.

An English Winter Journey

Roderick Williams’ and Julius Drake’s English Winter Journey seems such a perfect concept that one wonders why no one had previously thought of compiling a sequence of 24 songs by English composers to mirror, complement and discourse with Schubert’s song-cycle of love and loss.

History Repeating Itself: Prokofiev’s Semyon Kotko, Amsterdam Concertgebouw

A historical afternoon at the NTR Saturday Matinee occurred with an epic concert version of Prokofiev’s Soviet Opera Semyon Kotko.

L’amour de loin at the Metropolitan Opera

Opening night at the Metropolitan is a gleeful occasion even when the composer is long gone, but December 1st was an opening for a living composer who has been making waves around the world and is, gasp, a woman — the second woman composer ever to have an opera presented at the Met.

Early Swedish opera - Stenhammer world premiere

The Feast at Solhaug : Henrik Ibsen's play Gildet paa Solhaug (1856) inspired Wilhelm Stenhammer's opera Gillet på Solhaug. The world premiere recording is now available via Sterling CD, in a 3 disc set which includes full libretto and background history.

La finta giardiniera at the Royal College of Music

For an opera that has never quite made it over the threshold into the ‘canonical’, the adolescent Mozart’s La finta giardiniera has not done badly of late for productions in the UK. In 2014, Glyndebourne presented Frederic Wake-Walker’s take on the eighteen-year-old’s dramma giocoso. Wake-Walker turned the romantic shenanigans and skirmishes into a debate on the nature of reality, in which the director tore off layers of theatrical artifice in order to answer Auden’s rhetorical question, ‘O tell me the truth about love’.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Andreas Scholl
17 Jun 2009

Andreas Scholl at Wigmore Hall

Strikes on the London Underground system may have made this a particularly exhausting and exasperating week for Londoners, but despite these wearing adversities Friday evening saw an eager crowd flock to the Wigmore Hall, in excited anticipation of an inspiring and invigorating blend of the familiar and the unfamiliar — and they were not disappointed.

Andreas Scholl at Wigmore Hall

Andreas Scholl countertenor. Shield of Harmony: Crawford Young lute, director; Kathleen Dineen voice harp; Margit Übellacker dulce melos; Marc Lewon vielle, lute, checker. Wigmore Hall, London.

Above: Andreas Scholl

 

Scholl’s exquisite tonal beauty and superb clarity of diction are well-known to, and relished by, lovers of song, and both were much in evidence here. But few in the audience can have been familiar with the songs of the fifteenth-century German composer, Oswald von Wolkenstein, or with the startling timbral blend of the voices and instruments of the ensemble, Shield of Harmony — although after this stunning performance there is no doubt they will be eager for more.

Oswald von Wolkenstein was a poet, musician, nobleman and diplomat. An aristocrat, he was deeply involved in the political events of his time; moreover, travels in Europe, from the early age of 10, exposed him to an eclectic range of musical influences. In particular he absorbed the sophistications and developments of French song and incorporated troubadour idioms from the Romance languages into the German court context, revolutionising the German tradition.

His songs reflect the variety of his life; indeed, mimicking the songs of the early troubadours, they provide an autobiographical passage through his travels, exploits, loves and careers, spiced with philosophical ruminations, political observations and humorous drolleries. Typical of the period, the sacred blended subtly with the sexual. This recital presented a variety of forms, long narratives interspersed with shorter lyrics and instrumental solos.

Scholl’s enunciation was superlative throughout. Indeed, there is a spoken quality to many of these songs — Spruchdichtung — forming a continuum with Wolkenstein’s poetry, and reflecting the unity of poetry and song in this period. Like a story-teller, Scholl enhanced the narrative effect by occasionally beginning with a spoken introduction which evolved naturally into song - as in ‘Es fuegt sich’ (‘It happened’), whose three parts formed a framework for the recital. Here Scholl deftly recreated Wolkenstein’s character, telling of his travels in distant lands, his musical, mercantile and military accomplishments, and his amorous adventures.

Scholl’s voice was unfailingly sweet and warm, never cloying, and loveliest in the upper range, as in one of the evening’s highlights, ‘Herz, müt, leib’ (‘Heart, mind, body’). His soothed and lured the audience, drawing them into his tale: we celebrated his pride and success - ‘Many a wise man has valued my advice,/ like my tuneful songs’ - and laughed at his mischievous opportunism: ‘Many things then came easily,/ when I wore the monk’s hood,/ in truth, never before or after were girls so friendly, as they listened to my chatter’.

And we experienced the intensity of his passion — his anguish and yearning for transfiguration being worthy of a Schubert lied:

‘When I’m with her, I lose my equilibrium,
because of a woman I must travel a bad road,
into the wilds, until her dislike mercifully vanishes;
if she would help me, my sadness would become bliss.’ (‘Es fuegt sich’, part 2)

Most of Wolkenstein’s songs are monophonic, but Scholl was joined by Kathleen Dineen in two duets, ‘Ach senliches leiden’ (‘Alas heartfelt pain’) and the mesmerising ‘Nu rue mit sorgen’ (‘Now rest from your cares’), in which the exquisite union of these two unaffected voices effortlessly conveyed the erotic charge of the text and the poignancy of loss and pain.

The instrumental pieces provided variety and charm, the players of Shield of Harmony demonstrating considerable rhythmic dexterity and delighting in the complex, simultaneous use of duple and triple rhythms.

So hypnotising was this performance that I suspect many in the audience, like this listener, failed to notice when Scholl slipped effortlessly to a baritone voice for final song.

Scholl and Shield of Harmony demonstrated total mastery of this material: golden voices appropriate to this golden age of German minnesang.

Claire Seymour

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):